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S. Korea, China discuss trade, COVID-19 response in first visit since outbreak

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South Korea said on Saturday it held talks with China's top diplomat over trade, denuclearization and the coronavirus response, in the first visit by a high-level Beijing official since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted late last year.

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Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party Politburo, met with South Korea's new national security adviser, Suh Hoon, in the southern port city of Busan, the South Korean government said.

The two sides discussed topics such as accelerating free-trade agreement negotiations, expanding cultural exchanges as well as the election of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General, South Korea's presidential Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok said in a statement.

Kang added that Yang addressed China's position regarding the current US-China relations and Suh in return emphasized the importance of cooperative US-China relations for peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.

The talks come after the COVID-19 pandemic had undercut bilateral exchanges and stalled denuclearization negotiations involving North Korea.

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The two countries resumed exchanges last month when Seoul sent a high-level diplomat for a bilateral economic meeting.

Suh, who took up the top security job last month after serving as intelligence chief, also discussed a potential trip to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kang said the two countries agreed to make Xi’s visit to South Korea happen promptly once the COVID-19 situation stabilized, adding that China called South Korea a priority for President Xi to visit.

Yang said China will continue to talk and cooperate with South Korea to achieve denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula. The two sides also agreed on need to hold the South Korea-China-Japan summit within this year.

Yang arrived on Friday and is to leave on Saturday, the government said in a statement.

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